The people’s position remains that Zambia is a GMO-free country, and yet the mandated National Biosafety Authority (NBA) seems determined to change this.
In September 2017, the NBA held an exclusive meeting in Livingstone to discuss amendments to the National Biosafety Policy. This meeting was dominated by foreign institutions with a clear pro-GMO mandate.
Yesterday in Lusaka, the NBA held another exclusive meeting to develop the regulations for the live release of GMOs in Zambia. Again, this meeting excludes key national policy stakeholders, yet welcomes the strong hand of outside institutions.
This meeting was dominated by foreign institutions with a clear pro-GMO mandate.
The NBA is a public authority mandated by the people of Zambia. The direct involvement of outside institutions in policy formation process whilst deliberately excluding national policy interest groups is highly problematic.
Instead of the NBA first asking the people of Zambia for what we want, and then developing policy accordingly with us; they are instead drawing in outside institutions to draft our laws – after which they may consult the public – resources dependant. This is not good governance and this is not constitutional public consultation.
As far as the people of Zambia are concerned, Zambia’s position on GMO remains as the Late President Levy Mwanawasa sanctioned. Zambia does not allow for the production of live genetically modified organisms. Our agriculture system is GMO-free – giving us direct export market advantage and respecting the rights of consumers and farmers alike.
If food stuffs are imported that contain products of processed GMOs, they must go through stringent application and testing requirements, and the public have a right to know that they are consuming such products. i.e. they should be labelled.
Policies and laws of course need to be reviewed at appropriate times as required. However, the question is for whose purpose, in whose best interest and have good governance requirements been upheld?
Foreign trade lobby groups, multinational seed and agrochemical companies and a handful of researchers have been lobbying the NBA to change the country’s legal frameworks on genetic engineering, particularly in the food and agriculture sector. The people of Zambia have not been consulted on this move and that is a breach of their rights, and the mandated responsibility of the NBA.
At this time of considerable national financial strain, late rains, rising poverty and resource strapped farmers and consumers alike, we have major issues with the NBA forging forward with policy and law amendments that will not help solve the structural problems and gaps in our agro-food system nor our economy.
A joint open letter signed by faith, farmer, consumer and civil society groups, as well as numerous concerned individuals, stating serious concerns, is being delivered to the Ministry of Higher Education, copied to all other relevant Ministries and Honourable Members of Parliament and The House of Chiefs.
Zambia alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity